Sunday, April 19, 2015

19/4/15: Higher Firm Leverage = Lower Firm Employment (and Output)


In a recent briefing note on the Capital Markets Union (CMU) (here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2592918), I wrote that the core problem with private investment in the EU is not the lack of integrated or harmonised investment and debt markets, but the overhang of legacy (pre-crisis) debts.

Here is an interesting CEPR paper confirming the link between higher pre-crisis leverage of the firms and their greater propensity to cut back economic activity during the crisis. This one touches upon unemployment, but unemployment here is a proxy for production, which is, of course, a proxy for investment too.

Xavier Giroud, Holger M Mueller paper "Firm Leverage and Unemployment during the Great Recession" (CEPR  DP10539, April 2015, www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=10539) argues that "firms’ balance sheets were instrumental in the propagation of shocks during the Great Recession. Using establishment-level data, we show that firms that tightened their debt capacity in the run-up (“high-leverage firms”) exhibit a significantly larger decline in employment in response to household demand shocks than firms that freed up debt capacity (“low-leverage firms”). In fact, all of the job losses associated with falling house prices during the Great Recession are concentrated among establishments of high-leverage firms. At the county level, we find that counties with a larger fraction of establishments belonging to high-leverage firms exhibit a significantly larger decline in employment in response to household demand shocks."

In short, more debt/leverage was accumulated in the run up to the crisis, deeper were the supply cuts during the crisis. Again, nothing that existence of a 'genuine' capital markets union or pumping more credit supply (debt/leverage supply) into the system can correct.




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